The dried riverbed turned out to be some of the most technical riding I had ever done. I was incredulous at the mechanics stories of 80 mph crashes and super long wheelies. It was all I could do to stay on the bike at 40mph. The bed of the river was soft sand mingled with tight twisty turns and blind curves, it made the riding extremely hard. If I was finding the riding challenging Stef was undoughtably struggling. It was his first time trying to ride this type of terrain and although his efforts were typically valiant he was not happy. At the first 7 mile stop Stef, who isn't really known for his emotional outbursts, stated his position quite clearly. '**** this, I'm getting out the first chance I get!!'. Message received we exited the river bed at the first opportunity 7 miles further down the trail. Jon's bike was producing about 30 percent of its supposed power and Stef had come off, but Jon and I were grinning and sweating like maniacs. For me it had been some of the most successful sand riding I had ever done and laid to rest some personal demons generated earlier in the year during a trip to the Sahara. I was quietly pleased with my performance and noted an easing in concern when we discussed future famed sandy sections such as 'Cat Canyon' and the 'Sand Box'.
Although we were now 60 miles north of our mapped trail we decided to make up our own route using GPS's and our knowledge of the Oklahoma road system layout. We headed for Trinidad Colorado, where my clutch spares were waiting. We needed to ride quickly, we had 200 dirt miles to complete it was 11 am and we were just getting started...
20 miles down the road Jon's bike stopped again. It had been running badly all morning and had finally decided that enough was enough. A (by now) quick dismantle showed that the problem was fuel starvation due to a badly replaced breather tube. An hour later it was fixed and we set off again. Although initially running well Jon's bike soon began to lose power for the third time and a lunch and second rebuild stop was planned. The local store picnic table had probably never been used as carburettor rebuild platform before but there's a first time for everything. Jon and Stef stripped the bikes fuel and air systems down to its component parts whilst I sweated and slept on the associated bench. My stomach was still suffering from dodgy Mexican burritos and motorcycle maintenance was not foremost in my thoughts.
A fouled plug and seriously dirty air filter didn't help matters, but then neither did the huge jets fitted to the carburettor by the Canadian dealer to cope with Jon's exotic new exhaust system. We were running at over 6000ft on the high plains and the bike was running on a fuel/air mixture that was far too rich on petrol that was far too poor, however a plug and filter clean saw it running a little better...
It was at the lunch stop that we had our first 'ooh you're English, I love that accent' incident with one of the sales assistants. Sadly, 'are you guys Australian?' seemed to be far more common in most places. The people in this particular store scored highly for getting it right, not to mention letting Jon clean all manner of filthy bike parts on their tables and in their restrooms.
We set off west again towards a town called 'Liberal'. Initially we were hoping to push through to Trinidad 120 miles further west, but continuing problems from Jon's bike, my lack of clutch, brain numbing riding along flat plains, and a broken spoke on Stef's bike soon stopped those plans. At a small town called Ulysses Jon bought three spare plugs, Stef twanged his remaining spokes , the temperature dropped as the altitude increased, and we gave up. The only motel room in town had one single bed and my stomach was still cramping badly. This was definitely not going to be the highlight of our trip. We ate more steak and slept.
Fortunately I got the bed for the night having been the floor dweller the previous evening in Dodge. That meant that Dave and Jon got the 'spartan' sleeping arrangements for the night. I chuckled and watched TV as they tossed and turned in the vain attempt to get comfortable...I'm nice like that!